Fun science: more crystals!

Months ago, I posted about the collection of crystals and minerals at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Well, I went again, this time armed with a nicer (and heavier!) camera, and below are a few of the finds.SONY DSC

Quartz: quartz is a very common type of type of mineral (the second most common after feldspar), made up of silicon and oxygen. This variation is called agate. I used to buy agate slices as a kid, but the Smithsonian’s are slightly fancier.

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Another example of quartz. This one arose in a piece of petrified wood. I like this one because it looks like a painting of a setting sun behind a row of pine trees–almost Japanese.

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Malachite with azurite: both malachite and azurite are compounds of copper with oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. The two differ only in the ratios. By geological standards, this rock formed somewhat quickly. We can tell this because the crystals are numerous and small. Single, large crystals form more slowly. This is why you should make ice cream at low temperatures, because when you freeze it quickly, many tiny crystals form, producing a better texture.

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Pyrite: As you may see, pyrite, or fool’s gold, has a cubic crystalline structure. Pyrite is composed of iron and sulfur.

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Calcite with duftite inclusions: Calcite is known for its optical properties such as birefringence. It was used as a material for gun sights in World War 2. Duftite is a compound of lead, copper, and arsenic. It is the duftite that gives the distinctive green color. I think of this as the kiwi mineral, as it even has the seeds.

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